Monthly Archives: August 2015
Flash Movie Review: No Escape
In one version of being singled out you could win cash or valuable prizes. I was a member of a studio audience during the taping of a TV game show and won a television set because I had the correct numbers drawn on my admission ticket. There are other ways one can experience a positive result by being picked out of a group; a couple of examples could be the employee of the month or the valedictorian of a graduating class. The other version of being the recipient of everyone’s attention can be a dangerous one. In this version it only takes one person to single you out and depending on the hierarchy of the other people around, you could be marked for pretty much any type of abuse. Whether it starts with a bully in school, a coworker or a complete stranger; the results can be detrimental to your health. I hope none of you experience this type of scenario. For those of you who unfortunately have, you can confirm it literally is a death race when you are being chased by a person or a group that means to inflict harm on you. The taunts, the yelling from the crowd constantly rings in your ears like a massive clock tower stuck on the tolling of its bells for 12 o’clock. There never is a time to negotiate or even figure out why you were chosen; you just need to find somewhere safe fast. My past anxieties welled up right at the start of this action thriller. TRAVELING to Southeast Asia for a new business opportunity Jack Dwyer, played by Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, Night at the Museum franchise), and his family had only recently arrived shortly after the country’s prime minister was assassinated. They came just in time for an angry chaotic rebellion. This picture took off quickly with some well orchestrated tense scenes; I found myself breathing quickly from my nervousness due to the unfolding mob scenes. With Lake Bell (What Happens in Vegas, In a World…) as Jack’s wife Annie and Pierce Brosnan (Some Kind of Beautiful, After the Sunset) as Hammond, I thought the cast did an admirable job with the physically tough roles. This movie had a distinct shift in the middle of it. The first half of the film was much better than the last half. If the writers would have stayed with the original story line I think this would have been a better film. During the second half the film felt like one of those monster movies where no matter what the characters did there always seemed to be a monster waiting for them. I think it would have been more powerful if the writers had spent more time on the reasons that led up to the rebellion. This would have resulted in a better experience. There were scenes with blood and violence.
2 1/2 stars
Flash Movie Review: Some Kind of Beautiful
You know it does not always have to be an awkward situation when you meet someone you used to be married to or have dated. Of course, it depends on the circumstances that led to the separation in the first place. There have been a couple of people I dated that I would prefer not having to see or talk to, just because they lied to me and broke the trust that was established between the two of us. One of them used to live near me, so periodically I would see them walking down the street; if I was able to I used to cross the street to avoid talking to them. Then there was someone else I used to be with that would literally run away if they saw me. I used to have a hard time with that because nothing happened between us that I felt warranted such an action. I remember sitting down with them to say I did not share the same feelings as they did about our relationship. It did take a couple of years before the running stopped and actually we have remained friends now. In fact, a majority of the people I have dated have stayed on friendly terms with me. When some of my friends would question how I could still be friends with someone who broke my heart, I had to explain to them that just because the love aspect of the relationship died did not cancel out the other good qualities about the person that attracted me to them in the first place. Unless they did something hateful, I for the most part have been able to adjust my thought processes about them over time. Everyone handles this type of situation differently; just see what happens in this comedic romance. CAMBRIDGE English professor Richard Haig, played by Pierce Brosnan (Love is All You Need, The Ghost Writer), enjoyed his single life until he met American student Kate, played by Jessica Alba (Fantastic Four franchise, Valentine’s Day). What was it about Kate that made Richard want to be a better man? The cast which also included Salma Hayek (Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Frida) as Olivia and Malcom McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Easy A) as Gordon was the draw for me to watch this film; they were good and tried to do the best they could with the lines that were given to them. However, it was not enough to save this movie. The script was not only blatantly predictable, it was unpolished. Scenes felt separate from each other as if they were comedy bits from a television sitcom. I think if the writers would have spent more time developing the characters, giving them more depth; the story could have been more palatable. Love certainly has a way of making us do things we never thought of doing before.
1 3/4 stars
Flash Movie Review: Mistress America
I always enjoy meeting friends of friends and relatives or the significant others of friends. There is this fascination I have regarding how different people form relationships. In regards to friends I do not expect that all of their friends have similar traits, but I actually look at what I think is their stronger attributes and how they fit in with our common friend; it is like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. I had a friend who had a friend I felt was an irritating individual. Whenever we were together in a social setting we remained polite, but kept our face to face time down to a minimum amount to avoid getting on each other’s nerves. At the other end of the spectrum, there was a friend who introduced me to their best friend and we immediately bonded as friends. It was not too long before we felt we were each other’s best friend, we had so many similar traits. Our mutual friend actually became jealous of our relationship. Now have you ever noticed how two people in a relationship can be opposite of each other, where one is an introvert and the other an extrovert? This fits so well into my thinking the world is made up of pluses and minuses; sort of on the same lines as that theory about there is an opposing force for every force or something like that. I think that is one of the reasons why I found the main characters interesting in this comedy film. FINDING herself alone and in a new city; college freshman Tracy, played by Lola Kirke (Gone Girl, Reaching the Moon), decided to reach out to her future stepsister Brooke, played by Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, No Strings Attached). Starting in Times Square Brooke would take Tracy on a wild adventure through New York life. I have been a fan of Greta for some time and give her credit for her work on this film where she also co-wrote the script. There were some fun exchanges and great lines in the dialog. Unfortunately it took a long time for this movie to grab me; I found the first half slow and boring. Once Heather Lind (A Single Shot, The Weekend) as Mamie-Claire came onto the scene I found myself becoming more interested in the characters. The role of Brooke was a fascinating study for me; I enjoyed the idea of chasing one’s dreams and creating plans while not letting any setbacks pull you down attitude. The issue I had with this picture was trying to decide if it was purposefully trying to be shallow because I never felt totally invested in the characters. I still cannot tell. Like I said earlier it took a long time for me to get into this film and by the end I was left with a feeling of, “That is it?”
2 1/2 stars
Flash Movie Review: Hitman: Agent 47
There have been some movies that I have enjoyed watching multiple times. I am talking about the original ones, not necessarily the updated ones; though there have been a few that qualify for more viewing. I also have at times enjoyed when a movie transforms to a live theater production or vice versa. Each medium can provide me a different experience on how the story relates to me. Of course there have been some stellar disasters when one version transforms to the other. I remember one movie in particular that was brought to the big stage, getting its world premiere here in the city. A group of us who were all familiar with the film, traveled down to the theater that had its lobby festooned with all kinds of paraphernalia depicting the musical’s logo. Where the film was magical and imaginative, the theater production was bland and dull; it was a big disappointment for us. Now I have stated in the past that I feel movie studios depend more on marketing for their film decisions than coming up with original ideas. It seems as if there is a hot property or should I say when something goes viral, the studio is quick to jump on the excitement and produce a movie out of it. The studio generally has looked towards novels, history and actual events to generate a movie. Now they look at amusement rides and video games to come up with something marketable. My bottom line is the movie has to be entertaining; I do not focus on where the story originated. With this film I had no idea it was based on a video game. CREATED to be a top assassin Agent 47, played by Rupert Friend (The Young Victoria, Pride & Prejudice), had extra reason to find Katia, played by Hannah Ware (Shame, Oldboy), to complete his contract. This crime movie was slick looking, marketed to appear as a thrilling action film. I can only assume all the funds allotted to this project went to the marketing department and the trailers because the script was looney. This essentially was a long chase scene that came off for the most part as a ridiculous attempt to cash in on the video game. Things would happen in scenes with no rhyme or reason besides the main character being able to stand out in the open and not one expert sharpshooter could hit him with a bullet. Have you ever sat next to someone who never wants to share the joystick to a video game? This is how I felt as I struggled with boredom to get through this picture. Even Zachary Quinto (Star Trek franchise, Margin Calls) as John Smith could not save this dud. Maybe the video game is exciting, but to tell you the truth after seeing this film I really do not care. Several scenes had blood and violence.
1 1/2 stars
Flash Movie Review: American Ultra
You think you know someone and then all of a sudden they share something about themselves that changes your perceptions about them. Thinking an individual is a cheapskate only to find out they volunteer their time weekly at a food bank has to make one modify their feelings about that person. I remember this individual who always appeared to be fearful, never able to make a decision because they were afraid they would be making the wrong choice. Fast forward several years I come to find out this person picked up and moved to Europe for a job as a critic for a newspaper; I was absolutely stunned. Heck, I suffered weeks of anxiety just to move to a different neighborhood of the city. When the people we have to change our attitudes about are not directly connected to us, we do not suffer any ramifications. But when it is someone close, it can have a life altering effect on us. Being in a committed relationship for several years, you would think you know someone pretty well; I know I did. Imagine you find out they did something that caused a monumental shift in your relationship, like gambling away your entire savings without you ever knowing they had a gambling problem or they had been carrying on an affair with one of their coworkers, This type of news can be devastating to the point where one may never be able to recover from it. The young couple in this action comedy had a similar dilemma. Laid-back and usually stoned Mike Howell, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The End of the Tour, The Social Network), did not understand why people were trying to kill him. His girlfriend Phoebe Larson, played by Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria, Twilight franchise), wanted to know where Mike learned how to defend himself. The concept for this movie was only good because of Jesse in the role. Being such an affable and likable guy, the idea of him being a fighter was something I would never associate with him. Along with Connie Britton (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Friday Night Lights-TV) as Victoria Laseter and Topher Grace (Interstellar, Spider-Man 3) as Adrian Yates, I thought this film was an uneven mess. There were parts that were fun and exciting but then other areas made no sense and were dull. Topher’s character was annoying to me; I could not figure out if he was supposed to be a joke or not. If it was not for Jesse I would have been totally bored by this comedy, that did not have anything especially funny in it. So it turns out I thought I was going to see an exciting comedy movie and wound up seeing neither. There were several scenes with blood and violence.
1 3/4 stars
Flash Movie Review: Sinister 2
As every day fades away less and less people will be around that remember what it was like to watch family movies. It is not so dissimilar to the photographs we took with Kodachrome film. Those color pictures slowly leaked out their hues that diffused into thin air, leaving sepia ghosts on the paper until they turned into light silhouettes. Now with videos being made by such things as smart phones and computer tablets, most people have to huddle around the videographer’s outstretched hand like puppies coming to nurse at their mother. I am willing to bet they do not know what it is like to get settled into a family room with all your relatives around you. On the far side there stood a 3-legged white screen with an 8mm film projector pointing at it from the opposite side of the room. As someone turns off the light, the film operator starts up the projector; you hear the rapid tat, tat, tat sound repeating itself as the reels of film spin around. It does not matter if the lighting is poor or the images are a bit out of focus because half the fun is hearing the running commentary from all the relatives seated around the room. There was nothing like seeing younger versions of everyone either dancing, mugging or eating on that white screen. I can still remember sitting on the floor with my cousins as we watched our aunts and uncles celebrating at some event, dressed in what we thought were some goofy looking clothing. One of the best parts of looking at these old movies was seeing deceased relatives who you had only heard about and now can see them “live” so to speak. I cannot say the same thing for the family in this horror movie. AFTER moving into a rural home where a murder had taken place, the Collins family had something else that scared them. The first thing I have to tell you is I could not figure out if I was watching a prequel or sequel. Having sat through the first one, I had same faint memories that I was trying to plug in to what I was seeing in this picture. Starring Shannyn Sossamon (A Knight’s Tale, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) as Courtney Collins and Lea Coco (J. Edgar, Dorian Blues) as Clint Collins, I wished the writers would have done more with their story. The reason being the rest of the movie was boring with nothing scary about it. With my confusion and the lack of suspense, I have to say this was a real waste of time in my opinion. The script was so bare bones, that it felt like it was still in workshop when the studio decided they wanted to jump on it and bring it to the big screen. All I can say is I was grateful there were no extra scenes after the credits.
1 1/2 stars
Flash Movie Review: Phoenix
The more time spent with a person the less one notices any changes taking place. I have noticed this especially when it comes to the physical aspect of a person. In regards to the emotional and intelligence areas, you would think the longer you know a person the better you understand them; I certainly have believed this to be true. But I have to tell you the more I see and hear about people’s infidelity, transgressions and even crimes; the more I am at a loss for words because I cannot process it. What happens that causes a person in a long term relationship to suddenly start cheating on their significant other? Or these news shows that profile a married couple where one of them murders the other one? Stuff like this shakes my belief that 2 people can live happily ever after. I am the first to admit I have trust issues based on what has happened to me in my life; you think you know someone and it turns out you really do not, at least in my case. Though my philosophy may cause more hurt feelings for me, I choose to believe what people are telling me is true until they prove it otherwise. I cannot tell you how many times where I started dating someone who agreed with my definition of an exclusive relationship, yet I find out they had cheated on their previous partners. And do not get me started on some of the other things I have seen people do in a relationship; it can be frightening. LEFT for dead with a disfigured face Nelly Lenz, played by Nina Hoss (A Most Wanted Man, Barbara), with the help of Lene Winter, played by Nina Kunzendorf (Woman in Gold, Unspoken), not only survived the German concentration camps but also facial reconstruction surgery. Her goal was to find her husband Johnny Lenz, played by Ronald Zehrfeld (Inbetween Worlds, Barbara), who was no where to be found when the Germans took her away. This film festival winning drama was utterly captivating to me. With no prior knowledge about this mystery movie, I not only thought the filming of it was beautiful but that the script had elements of tenderness, longing and surprise. The story was set in Berlin after the war which I found made it more interesting to see how people were picking up the pieces of their lives while recalling past events. I thought the director did a wonderful job of letting the actors talk using nonverbal cues; luckily the actors were quite skilled in achieving this method of communication. I found this film fascinating and was surprised to find out my initial thoughts about the characters were not totally accurate. Maybe it is harder than you think to really know someone. German was spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars
Flash Movie Review: Cop Car
Bombs were splattering their contents all around me. Luckily I had scoped out the area so I had my escape route planned out before settling into my current hiding spot. The rest of my team was spread out but we had a plan to regroup in case the enemy overpowered us. I fell back and raced to the rope bridge that would get me to higher ground. Making my way across it I glanced down to see the gaping valley below was barren; there was no place for anyone to take cover. As I reached the top I bounded across these odd wooden slats, trying to keep the soles of my shoes from announcing my location. Up ahead my fellow warriors were huddled together near a cold fire pit. We decided to fan out in two groups to circle around our aggressors and capture them from behind. There was a cave down to the north, but it was actually a tunnel that would take us all the way to the back of the mountain. The problem was to get down, we would have to scale down the side of the mountain with our backs exposed; it was a dangerous undertaking but it was the only way. It was a treacherous climb but we did it, creeped around and captured the enemy. Since it was already late in the day we all decided we better get home and get ready for dinner; our parents would be worrying about us. What I just described took place around a large apartment building from the neighborhood where I grew up. My friends and I had hours of fun with our imaginations. WHILE 10 year old friends Travis and Harrison, played by relative newcomers James Freedson and Hays Welford, were working on their escape they came across an abandoned police car. They now had a getaway car but their escape would turn into a chase when Sheriff Kretzer, played by Kevin Bacon (My One and Only, Mystic River), came back to find his squad car was missing. This film festival nominated thriller had a simple, bare bones story; I felt I was watching an old “B” movie. I enjoyed the way the writers let the audience know right upfront what the characters were like, so as the film progressed we felt we knew the true character of the players. I rather relished the tenseness I was experiencing as I wanted to warn the kids to watch out. With Shea Whigham (Take Shelter, Silver Linings Playbook) as the man, I thought the acting was real good in this slower paced type of thriller. The way the kids were playacting connected me to some of my memories when I was a child with a vivid imagination. It is funny because I never imagined I would have enjoyed this film as much as I did. There were several scenes with blood in them.
2 2/3 stars
Flash Movie Review: The Diary of a Teenage Girl
I feverishly was trying to keep up with my notes while the speaker was discussing the kinesiology behind their choreographic routines. The workshop was packed with fitness participants; I had no idea this would have been such a popular course. However, I soon realized why when I glanced at the person’s notebook next to me; she was drawing a portrait of the presenter. I was stunned; not because it was actually a good likeness, but because she appeared to be in her middle 20s. Didn’t this kind of thing go on back during our school years I wondered to myself? I could still remember back in school how easy it was to spot someone who had a crush on someone else. If they could not engage their intended target in conversation, they would always be close by to watch the movements of their heart’s attraction. When there was an age difference or more exactly a grade difference I always found it odd that it was okay if the male was in a higher grade, but not the female. I had a friend who had dated an older girl but he never talked about it, only if he was asked questions directly. Now keep in mind back then dating meant going out to eat, see a movie, sitting together during lunch period, hanging out in groups; all depending on what grade one was in. I do not recall hearing about such events like what I saw in this dramatic romance. ARTISTICALLY inclined teenager Minnie, played by Bel Powley (Side by Side, M.I. High-TV), had a crush on Monroe, played by Alexander Skarsgard (The East, What Maisie Knew). He was already dating her mother Charlotte, played by Kristen Wiig (Welcome to Me, The Skeleton Twins). Set in the 1970s in San Francisco, this film festival winning movie used animation in a creative way to bring some of Minnie’s thoughts to life. I thought the cast was exceptionally good; however, if I go by my standards regarding the entertainment value of a film, then I did not find this picture very entertaining. For me it came down to the subject matter, I was not comfortable with it. I do believe the story portrayed certain realness and I know I do not have the right to place my values on other people; but I just felt scenes were being regurgitated to drive a point home. There were parts of the picture that were nicely done and actually the script was well written, even if some of it was predictable to me. What I have always said about a movie is if it moves you, whether in a positive or negative way, then it has done its job. I was moved but I did not experience a lot of entertainment value with this film.
2 1/2 stars
Flash Movie Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
She could be so vindictive even while serving you buttered toast. I do not want to say she was untouchable, but she was essentially the only one who knew how to operate the outdated billing system at the company. By today’s standards she would have been written up by her manager multiple times; I was one of her victims having been on the receiving end of a spiteful attack. I had done nothing wrong in my dealings with this one customer; however, while she was on the switchboard she added some extra lines to the message the customer left for their salesperson. She made it look like I had been verbally abusive with the customer. Luckily I kept detailed notes about all my accounts, so her plan did not hit me full force. I will tell you I was furious and spent a long week dealing with my anger at her, devising imaginative plots of revenge. Each plan I came up with became more outrageous as my anger increased, even though I knew I would not act on any of them. But do you know what I did instead? I took my anger and started working harder at my job, soliciting more conversations from my contacts, to strike up a sense of familiarity between us. As time passed my efforts paid off and I was promoted to a bigger position. I became that employee’s boss. You are probably thinking I made her life a living hell, but I did not. Though I remained wary of her, I kept close tabs on her since we had to work together. Sort of the same thing the 2 agents had to do in this action adventure film. DURING the cold war a new threat emerged that could become more powerful than the United States or Soviet Union. CIA agent Napoleon Solo, played by Henry Cavill (Immortals, Man of Steel), and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin, played by Armie Hammer (Mirror Mirror, The Lone Ranger), would have to work together if they were to succeed in their mission. Based on the 1960s television series there were parts of this film that were fun and entertaining. With a slick stylized look to the movie I enjoyed some of the banter that took place between the two agents. However, I did not care for the story much; it seemed choppy and uneven to me. The fight scenes only seemed to enhance this point; I did not like the way they were filmed for the most part. Throughout the picture it appeared to me everything was being laid out as an overture to what would become the main movie, the possible sequel. This felt like a trial run of a story so I will try to keep an open mind if the film studio decided to do another one.
2 1/2 stars